Some Thoughts on the Sequel


War, Famine, Pestilence, Death, and now...NIMH II!

And in the land of Judea there will be great crying and gnashing of teeth, and the skies will turn black and the seas run with blood. This calls for wisdom, for presiding over the sacrifice will be the beast with ten heads and four horns, and on its forehead shall be written NIMH II. --Revelation 12:4-5

Like Pulling Off A Bandaid...

Well, I've seen it. I went out and rented it, spending five dollars I'll never get back. And, I have to give them credit, it's a highly professional piece of dreck.

It starts out with the image of a book with the poster of the original on it. A narrator tells the story of the Rats of NIMH, using footage from the original, and similar wording to Nicodemus' story. We are told of Jonathan Brisby's sacrifice, and also of a prophecy by Nicodemus that one day NIMH would again threaten the rats and Jonathan's son Timothy would rescue them.

Cut to the Fitzgibbon farm. Martin and Timothy are racing in walnut shells pulled by rabbits. Martin causes Timothy to be thrown from his "chariot" and Timothy decides to take a shortcut home. He stumbles into a trap, and it's only with Martin's help that he gets out before the NIMH scientists show up. The head scientist, a Dr. Valentine, is certain that they must have caught a NIMH rat, as only they could have escaped. The best thing about this scene is that we do get a glimpse of the Fitzgibbon farmhouse, and it looks pretty much the same. Apparently, the filmmakers saw the original, which is a bit of a surprise ;)

At the Brisby home, tearful farewells are being made. Timothy is about to leave for Thorn Valley because he has to fulfill his destiny as a hero. There's a lot of jealousy from Martin, who seems to think that he should be the one to go save the rats; after all, he's bigger and older. But, he and Timothy make up, and Martin gives Tim a slingshot. When he tries to shoot it, he accidentally shoots down Jeremy. Yes, Mrs. Brisby and all the children are in this scene, Mrs. Brisby has glasses and her hair is tipped with grey. Teresa is about the same. Cynthia has turned into a very fat girl. Even Auntie Shrew is here, although her voice sounds like a man doing a falsetto. To give a sense of the writing, when Martin storms off, Auntie Shrew says, "Oh, to heck with him, he always was a rude little piglet!"

Jeremy flies Timothy to the Valley, which is actually more of a gorge. In fact, it's so narrow and deep, it's a wonder any sunlight at all can get to the bottom. Justin is there to welcome him. Ages and Brutus are also there. Big song and dance number ensues, Timothy is shown through the Valley, into the school, lots of food and drinks and assorted high-jinks ensue, and Tim is given the key to the city (or something). He's determined to live up to his father's name. As he grows to adulthood, we see him learning science from Ages, and swashbuckling from Justin, he successfully defeats a snake, and finally, Justin invites Timothy along on a collecting expedition to the city. Timothy is highly excited to go, but is annoyed when he is told to stand guard outside and watch for the dog. He abandons his post, and meets another mouse named Jenny. Of course, the watchdog appears, but with Jenny's help they all get away. Amazingly, Jenny can read!

Back at the Valley, Jenny tells her story. She is the daughter of the McBrides, two of the Lost Six (it should actually be the Lost Nine, but I guess they didn't watch the original TOO closely). They were recaptured by Valentine and have been there since. It's never really explained how Jenny got out, but she says that something dire is going to happen when the full moon comes, and she was sent out to ask the Rats for help. The Council retires to consider her appeal, but in the end it is rejected. It is too dangerous for the Valley to expose itself in that way. Further, Jenny cannot ever be allowed to leave. "Sorry for keeping you prisoner," Mr. Ages tells her.

When she and Timmy are alone, he asks (reasonably) how the Lost Six even knew about the Valley. She tells him that they heard it from another mouse who showed up at NIMH and was recaptured. Timmy puts two and two together and realizes that this must be Martin. Now that it's his brother at stake, he agrees to help Jenny escape, and together they construct a hot air balloon and slip past Brutus.

Meanwhile, two dumb cats (voiced by Andrea Martin and Harvey Korman) are lured into NIMH, where they get tortured with some sort of brain electrocution device.

Jenny and Tim's balloon is shot down by a hawk, and crashes into the forest. Just as Jenny is about to kill Timothy for getting them into this, they get the idea of going to see the Great Owl. A caterpillar named Cecil claims to be the Owl's assistant, and insists that they pay to see him. It turns out that the Owl is Jeremy in disguise, and that he's been scamming the forest creatures for sparklies. The scam is revealed, and Jeremy is forced to flee, but he agrees to carry Tim and Jenny to the city. Jeremy and Cecil take off in horror when they realize that this is NIMH.

Inside, Tim and Jenny run into Justin and several other rats, who changed their minds about helping the Lost Six. Again, Justin tells Timmy to watch their backs, again Timmy is pissed off about this, and again he wanders off on his own. As a result, they are all captured by the two cats, who have been transformed into lackeys, and brought before Dr. Valentine. However, Valentine is running around on all fours making animal noises, and the true villain emerges from the shadows. It is Martin, also transformed. Apparently, he was too smart to begin with, so the experiments had different effects on him (gee, wonder where they got that idea? See my sequel), and he managed to turn the tables on Dr. Valentine, sticking him in his own brain electrocution device. Now, Martin likes to shock himself with this thing, and he wants to do the same to the others and so make them like him. Inexplicably, he now has an English accent (Eric Idle). He is preparing to invade Thorn Valley and make himself king, and invites Timmy to join him. Timmy refuses, and Martin shuts him up in a cage and leaves with Jenny, saying that he's planning to make her his queen.

Now comes the self-pity song, as both Jenny and Timmy whine for three minutes. Cecil shows up, and contributes nothing to the plot. Then Timmy remembers the key to the city that he still has, and uses it to pry apart the cage. He evades the cats, and confronts Martin. In so doing, he starts a fire. He threatens Martin with the slingshot, Martin laughs that he couldn't hit water if he fell in it, but Timmy has improved. However, it takes Jenny behind Martin to knock over a book and render Martin senseless. Martin's henchrats enter, preparing to start the invasion of Thorn Valley, but Timmy, animating Martin from behind, sends them off in the wrong direction. Then he and Jenny rescue Justin and the others, but as the building starts to burn around them, Timmy goes back for Martin. He gets Martin, but they can't get out of the building. Timmy shuts them up inside one of the cages, and uses some sort of lift device to propel them up through the ceiling. They are about to fall back down into the flames, when Jeremy catches them.

Back at the Valley, cheering throngs turn out to see Timmy, Martin is returned to normal by Mr. Ages, and Jenny gets to kiss Timmy. Mrs. Brisby is there too, inexplicably no older. Timmy is added to the statue of his father. The End and can I have my money back?

OK, Is It Really All That Bad?

Oh yes...

Again, ok, but is there ANYTHING good about it?

Well, actually, yes. Surprisingly, considering how much I, and everyone, bitched and moaned about the film being a musical, the songs aren't anywhere near as bad as I thought they would be. It was still a boneheadedly wrong decision, but I suppose that if you have to have songs, they made them about as good as we could reasonably expect. "Magic Mystery Show" had some clever lyrics, and the rest of the songs failed to produce bleeding from the ears.

Also, the plot does cover a loose end left from the original, one that just begged to be dealt with in a sequel--namely, the Lost Nine (or "six" as the film has it). That at least is a legitimate idea for a story.

Plus, there's Jenny. Other than some lame lines ("Hi, I'm Timmy...uh, Tim." "Hello, Timmy...uh, Tim.") she was pretty cool.

CLICK HERE to read a moron's opinion about NIMH II! Thanks to Kristin for sending it to me!

And Now, More Silliness: NIMH II Awards!

Most Bizarrely Altered Character:
Brutus. Honorable Mention: Cynthia
The sinister, threatening, SILENT character from the original is gone. Now, we have a huge doofus, Justin's Gomer Pyle. As for Cynthia, she seems to have both the shape and personality of Eric "It's All A Load of Hippie Tree-huggin Crap" Cartman.

Oddest Inconsistancy from the Original:
When Martin badmouths Nicodemus, it's Auntie Shrew of all people who comes to ol' Nick's defense. Why her? She's never even met the guy, and she never liked the rats anyway! Honorable Mention: The Owl's lair curved to the left in the original. Now it curves to the right.

Dumbest Plot Twist:
Martin transformed into Evil Martin. What were they thinking?

Worst New Character:
Cecil Honorable Mention: Dr. Valentine.

Gayest Character:
Justin Honorable Mention: Cecil.
You poor poor soul, what have the bastards done to you? When you said the line "young master Brisby" I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "Hey, Timmy, do ya like gladiator movies?"

Best In-Joke:
You have to read the credits for it, but Jenny's parents are named Helen and Troy. Benefits of a classical education :)

The "Why, God, Why?" Award:
Ralph Macchio sings. 'Nuff said.

Lamest Cliche:
Not only is Dr. Valentine a conventional Mad Scientist, but he actually chases after the mice with butterfly nets!

Best Line:
Mr Ages: What have I been teaching you all these months?
Timothy: That it's ok for guys to wear the same underwear three days in a row?

Worst Line:
Jenny: That's for being so evil!

Most Incomprehensible Action Continuity:
Here's the scene. Martin has Jenny in a chair, preparing to pump electricity into her head. Oddly, she doesn't seem to actually be tied to anything. Timothy appears as Martin reaches for the switch. Tim throws Jenny a key, and we see a closeup of an arm catching it, but it can't be Jenny's arm, because she's wearing a long sleeve shirt and this arm is bare. Then Timmy, still in possession of the key, fires it at Martin with the slingshot. I was scratching my head for hours, looking at this one frame by frame. Huh? PS, just as an aside, after shooting Martin, Tim unties Jenny, even though as I said, the ropes weren't there a moment ago.

Biggest Oversight:
Where's the Stone?

Most Extraordinary Moment of Clarity:
In this film, it is revealed that the rats go on collecting expeditions to the city. Of course! I can't believe that this never occured to me in all the years I've been watching NIMH! Just because they have given up stealing doesn't mean that they can't still take stuff that people throw away! I feel so much better all of a sudden!

Lamest Moral Lesson:
"You've got to adapt and improvise."

Most Blatant Ripoff:
Martin and Timothy have a "chariot race" just like in "Prince of Egypt." Honorable Mention: Timmy and Martin shoot through the roof of NIMH just like Bruce Willis in Die Hard II. Same angle and everything.

Most Welcome Returning Voice:
Arthur Malet as Mr. Ages.
An upset, to many people. Dom DeLuise was considered by many to be a shoo-in, but I'm sorry, his schtick just wasn't that cute anymore.

The "I Can't Believe What People Will Do For Work" Award:
This is the hardest category to pick, since there's so many candidates. Peter MacNichol (Dragonslayer, Ellen, Ally McBeal) appears for about two minutes as the Narrator, making me wonder "Why have a name actor for such a "nothing" role?" Ralph Macchio (Karate Kid) is also a strong contender, but the winner is Mechach Taylor as Cecil, who I remember mainly as the black guy on Delta Burke...ooops, I mean Designing Women. Are things really that rough?
Honorable Mention: Phillip Glasser as Older Martin. Hollywood probably hasn't been breaking down his door since he played Fievel in 1986.

Screenshots With Derogatory Captions

Click here for my captions, and for the best of the contest entries.

What do the Characters Think?

Megan Lucas wrote to me with a great idea: an actual "interview" with the characters about the sequel. Asked what they thought about the sequel being a musical, here's what they had to say:

"Oh please dear God, no!" - Mrs. Brisby.
"Lies!" - Jenner.
"Damn!" - Justin.
"Great Jupiter!" - Mr. Ages.

"What if it's true?" - Mover #1.
"We'll all be killed!" - Mover #2.
"Don't panic!" - Mover #3.

Thank you very much, Megan, I think that pretty well sums it up.

Mrs. Brisby's Voice

Elizabeth Hartman, we all know, died by her own hand in 1987. (Vancouver Province, June 12, 1987.) A point of trivia...Hartman is not the only Bluth actress to die prematurely. Can anyone name the other?

Anyway, there was a great deal of anticipation to see who the new voice would be. Mrs. Brisby plays only a small role in the film, saying goodbye to Timmy at the beginning as he goes to Thorn Valley (she also shows up in the valley at the end), so there's not much for the new voice to do, fortunately. Her voice is a completely undistinguished actress by the name of Debi Mae West.

What a waste. She doesn't even sound like Mrs. Brisby. Anyway, I've amused myself for the last year thinking about who would have been a good replacement, and I don't really see any reason to take down the names I came up with. Plus a few other suggestions I got from others interested in the problem...

  1. Julie Hagerty. She was the first person I thought of. She is best known for her role as the stewardess in the Airplane movies. She has the right sort of voice, soft, timid, wispy. Maybe just a bit too squeaky to play Mrs. Brisby, though. She does sound a bit like a worker in a helium factory.
  2. Even better, I think, would be Amanda Plummer, who is first of all a far better actress, and second of all, a closer match to Hartman's voice. She is also known for playing timid characters, although ironically, she is probably best known for a character who is just the opposite: the unstable bank robber at the beginning of "Pulp Fiction." (I can imagine some animator with a warped sense of humour animating Mrs. Brisby saying Plummer's line "Nobody move or I'll execute every motherfuckin last one of ya!") A better sense of Plummer can be found from her role in "The Fisher King" as a very Brisby-like character.
  3. I don't know, how about Ally Sheedy? Any other suggestions out there?

Other Suggestions:

Milla Jovovich as Mrs. Brisby,
courtesy of Ken Singshow.
One candidate, however, still stands at the very top of my list. Ken Singshow did a picture of Brisby as the Fifth Element, (you can see that picture on Charlie's webpage) and that was a pretty smart idea. The actress (I think her name is Milla Jovovich) would be a perfect Brisby, vulnerable and timid, but capable of strength. Ken also gave me the picture at right, showing his vision of Ms. Jovovich as Brisby. Pretty cool, huh?

Also, I've been asked who I would pick to replace the other two actors who are no longer with us; John Carradine, and Paul Shenar. Carradine, as the Owl, is not much of a problem. There are plenty of deep-voiced actors who could do it. Either of the Jones Boys, James Earl and Tommy Lee could probably do a fine job.

Paul Shenar was a tougher problem, but I finally realized that Kelsey Grammer is an almost spookily close match for Jenner's voice. Watch Nimh and see if you can't imagine Frasier saying Jenner's lines.

Of Re-Releases and Lost Scenes

I too, have heard the rumours of missing scenes in Nimh, but I must say that I doubt that these rumours are true. I would love to see a re-release of the film, but there are probably no missing scenes, especially not involving a kiss between Justin and Mrs. Brisby.

I think that the infamous "Kiss" drawing may very well have been done by a Bluth animator, but I find it unlikely that there is an entire scene, meant to be in the movie but cut, for the following reasons:

First, animated movies rarely have scenes cut after completion. That's what the storyboards are for, to allow the filmmakers to make those sorts of decisions before the time-consuming process of animation begins.

If Bluth and Co. had considered such a scene, and then decided that it didn't fit the film, they would almost certainly have made that decision early, especially considering Nimh's tight budget.

Second, a clue from the drawing itself: Justin is wearing the soldier cap!. I may be wrong, but it was my impression that this was something he wore only briefly in order to blend in with the other toy soldiers. I didn't think it was actually part of his uniform (he does, after all, casually throw it away). So, why would he be wearing it at the end of the movie, as he and Mrs. Brisby kiss?

Of course, I could be wrong. I know for a fact that missing scenes to "The Land Before Time" do exist, based on the fact that the television commercials contained shots not present in the actual film. And we've also seen the picture of Mrs. Brisby and all her kids riding Jeremy, which also doesn't appear in the film. Still, I think that missing scenes in Nimh are unlikely.

As for re-releases, don't hold your breath. Bluth has zero rights to the film, so it's entirely at MGM's discretion, and a "director's cut" is pretty much out. Besides, if NIMH II is any indication, they don't really care enough. Still, a rerelease could be considered free profit, and they obviously thought enough of the film to make a crappy knock-off, so who knows?

My Own Sequel!

I love it! It has a kinda Star Wars type grandness.--Ken Singshow

Learn the secrets behind the Secret! Where did the Stone come from? Why does Jenner hate Justin so much? Did Nicodemus really die? How did he become a sorcerer?

Now All Can Be Revealed!

Yup, this is my own version of what a sequel to NIMH should be. It's a little redundant to have it here, since it's now also up in Robin's NIMH Fan Fiction Archive, but hey, what the heck.

Oh, by the way. The answer to the trivia question: Judith Barsi, voice of Ducky and Anne-Marie, was shot to death by her stepfather who then turned the gun on himself. I was pretty annoyed that Bluth didn't dedicate "All Dogs" to her memory; I can't see that film without being struck by the irony of Barsi's death.

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